A fundraising appeal to help defend wild camping on Dartmoor has raised more than £11,000 in just a few days. 

The Dartmoor wild camping fundraiser has been launched by the Dartmoor Preservation Association. The aim is to raise funds for the National Park Authority in its appeal against last month’s high court ruling, which effectively ended the assumed right to wild camp on Dartmoor.

Wild camping was previously thought to be legal without obtaining landowner’s permission under the Dartmoor Commons Act 1985. But in January, following a legal challenge by millionaire hedge fund manager Alexander Darwall, Dartmoor’s sixth-biggest landowner. the high court ruled that this had never been the case.

Main image: Demonstrators at the January 21 Dartmoor protest | Photo credit: Ross Crawford

The ruling means there is nowhere in the UK outside Scotland where there is an assumed right to wild camp (in Scotland, wild camping is legal under the terms of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. In response to the ruling, campaigning groups, representative bodies and outdoor enthusiasts reacted with dismay, 4,000 people signed up for a demonstration on Dartmoor, and the Labour Party announced it would introduce a new ‘right to roam’ act if elected to government.

Uphill struggle

Now, hundreds of people have donated to the JustGiving fundraiser in less than a week, raising the total to more than £11,000 at the time of writing.

The Dartmoor Preservation Society said: “Earlier this year, as a result of the court case brought by a local landowner, backpack camping (a.k.a. wild camping) was made illegal on Dartmoor, overturning a decades-long tradition of responsible camping on the moor. This decision has dismayed those who love the moor and those who wish to protect that tradition of leave-no-trace camping for which Dartmoor is rightly famous.

“The Dartmoor National Park Authority has begun the process of appealing the court’s decision. This process is long and convoluted, with a number of possible outcomes, and is extremely expensive. The decision to begin the appeal process has been made in large part due to the overwhelming public support for such an appeal, and the assurance that funds can be raised to support that appeal.

“This page is your chance to help support that appeal process. If you can support with a donation, we are so very thankful! Not only are you increasing the chances of us all being able to enjoy the beauty and power of this wild place again, but you are giving a chance for future generations to enjoy the access to the moor which we ourselves have enjoyed. If you cannot donate, please spread the word far and wide, as it’s an uphill struggle in hard times to raise such a huge figure. We appreciate all the support you can give.

“We can do this. It’s a long haul, and the battle will have many phases, but we are confident that – with your help and the strength of public feeling for this beautiful wild place we all love so much – we can win. We have to.”

Campaign efforts

The association also clarified that funds would only be used to support future appeal costs, and would not go towards costs of the original judgement. They added that until the full costs of the appeal were known, they would ringfence donations towards the appeal, which could be until ‘late 2023’.

As well as supporting the fundraising effort, The Stars are for Everyone, a group which campaigns for the right to wild camp on Dartmoor, is calling for a ‘Responsible Wild Camping Uprising’ between February 12 – 16th, encouraging people to camp and bivi on the moor, as well as send letters to their local MPs calling for a new right to roam bill for England.

READ MORE: The right to roam movement has been reborn on Dartmoor. What now? 

Support the Dartmoor wild camping fundraiser here.